September 9th, 2007
The $24,670 Debacle

structurally unsound
The construction problems were not as bad as I thought; they were worse.

“I was hired to create a quality, well built product that was my original design and my original build, not yours. You are not a builder nor are you an architect. I was not hired to build a design you concocted, I do not work that way, nor did I ever agree. You had some suggestions that we granted, but for you to claim ‘that you would not have done it that way’ or ‘why did you do it that way’ is preposterous.” — Ivan Spaller, Floribunda August 3, 2007

building inspection
2007-08-14. Building Inspection Correction Notice

building inspection

The framing of the garden house failed on four counts; the most disturbing news is that the back roof is not attached to the concrete wall. I can lift the roof off the wall with one hand. The inspector said that in the next big storm (and this is hurricane season) it could blow off like a giant kite. Not only could this destroy the garden house but it has the potential to cause harm to the lives or property of our neighbors.

The roof must come off. Whenever I tried to come up with solutions to the screen framing problem, I always came to the conclusion that the roof was on wrong and caused other problems. But I couldn’t begin to consider the time and expense of taking it off and solving the problems at the cause. Like everyone else, I wanted to see what we could do to band-aid the problem. Now that the building inspector has made the decision for me, my initial response is relief. There isn’t a choice now. No more torturing myself with what should be done. The roof must come off and the garden house can be fixed the right way, not just patched up.

by M Sinclair Stevens

15 Responses to post “The $24,670 Debacle”

  1. From M2 in Bothell:

    How hideous! But I like the phrase “the garden house can be fixed the right way, not just patched up.”

    It’s worth saving … the little window is charming, and I love the pond. The roof is great, too … but I can see the “kite” aspect! *shudder*

    Thanks…the window was my idea. I was very nervous with the idea of looking out the kitchen window and being hit in the face visually with a big, gray concrete wall. I thought the window would provide an airy counterpoint to the heavy wall.

  2. From Carol:

    I feel so bad for you that your dream is turning in to a nightmare. Hopefully, all will now get fixed, and soon!

  3. From Pam/Digging:

    From bad to worse, huh? I’m so sorry you’re having these problems. But it sounds like you now know what you have to do, and your feeling of relief makes sense to me.

  4. From Diana - Austin:

    Oh – I am soooo sorry. How horrible for you – to have this vision and invest in it and have it turn into such a mess. So glad you shared this all with us. I remodeled 3 houses with my neighbor over the last 2 years and we had a terrible experience with a contractor that built a carport for us without permits and we literally had to tear it down because it was against code. I wish you the best with your efforts to make it all right. I hope you can find someone reputable who will work with you and do right by you.

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    Not fun, and not fair, either, MSS.

    It may sound like a small thing, but when I saw the way the builders attached the wood trim onto the siding without even moving the tree branches out of the way first, the sight of the branch and leaves nailed into place on the wall appalled me.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    If you want to see the photo I took it’s here at Annie’s Addendum

    Good one, Annie. It’s also reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who was appalled. — mss

  6. From entangled:

    Ohhhhhh, I know just how you feel. Our unlicensed, unprofessional carpenter walked out and left us a mess after we refused to pay him more money. At that point, we had already paid him more than he originally asked for. Sheesh. I started to type out all the gory details, but thought better of it.

    I hope your situation gets resolved quickly, and you’ll soon sit in your garden house sipping wine and forgetting all about the construction problems.

    Your situation sounds exactly the same as this one. Given that I know so many gardeners in Austin, I thought I should raise a red flag here so that no one runs into the same problem. Let my mistake stand as a cautionary tale. Besides people have been following the garden house story since the beginning. It’s only fair to tell the whole story even if it takes a bad turn. — mss

  7. From Layanee:

    Ugggg, that looks like a nightmare and I looked at Annie’s picture and just cannot imagine what they were thinking! No pruners at hand I guess! Sloppy carpenters! It is a cute building though so when it is right, it will be a joy!

    I still have high hopes. — mss

  8. From Angelina:

    It makes me so mad that you have had to go through all this and that the contractor left you with such shoddy work to fix. Is he going to be held accountable? What a louse.

    I appreciate all the commiseration. How to hold Floribunda accountable is still under discussion. — mss

  9. From Susan:

    Oy! I just read this and am completely appalled. What a horrible thing to happen to your lovely building. I’m so sorry. I’ll bet the solution will create an even better spot in your garden. I’ll keep my fingers crossed (and I look forward to visiting!).

    — Susan

    Susan, come on over sometime and you can look at it for yourself. I’ve been meaning to share some oxblood lilies with you if you want some. — mss

  10. From gbs:

    I am so sorry this happened to you, but thanks for alerting us to the shoddy work this company does. It’s not like I have the money to invest in landscaping right now, but if friends are looking for a landscaper/hardscaper, I’ll be sure to direct them to your blog as a cautionary measure.

    Well, I can’t speak to any landscaping problems, per se. as I’ve never had Floribunda do any landscape work for me. In fact, I’ve always admired Ivan’s landscape designs whenever I’ve seen them. That is one of the reasons I hired him in the first place. My only issue is with his construction practices. — mss

  11. From Sumer:

    I was shocked reading this and the found out after contacting Floribunda, that it turns out you all had fired them after a fit and would not allow him access to your property, he forwarded me the emails.. How could he have finish, or do the corrections if you prohibited him from accessing your property? And you had him change the roof demensions half way into it!!! I still think there stuff is way cool. And you did not even pay in full? You seem like a pain.

    Ivan packed up his equipment and walked off the job on July 25th. He came by the next day to take photographs of the house. Perhaps you are also privy to the timestamps on those digital photographs and can confirm that. We spent the next week trying to negotiate some sort of close to the project that would be mutually satisfactory. As long as Ivan refused to discuss any plans for making the fixes (see email above), I did not think it wise to let him make any. He did not seem to realize the extent of the problems…as confirmed by the building inspector. When (on August 3rd) he refused to discuss any issues with me, the customer, well…You know this wasn’t a $24K art project grant; it’s a house. Coolness does not make up for a building being structurally unsound. As for changing the dimensions of the roof, that I never did. In fact, if Ivan had stuck to his plan of 2-foot overhangs, he would not have run into any problems with his 36 inch roof panels. — mss

  12. From Jenny - Las Vegas:

    It’s one thing to disagree on a building design, and quite another to have someone erect a shoddy structure, at your expense, on your property, that could cause injury or property damage or both. If this is an example of his “original design” and “original build” he needs to retake Construction 101, or look for a new profession!

  13. From Ki:

    What a nightmare. You should report it to the BBB or Angie’s list.

    The Better Business Bureau handles only cases that are not in litigation, as they attempt to mediate a deal. — mss

  14. From Mara west of Austin:

    It is shameful what transpired. I have built west of Austin and we also ran into a list of bad builders. One hung our lights and never put the inners inside them. Another left 1 1/2″ gaps in aluminum siding. The list goes on. One carpenter looked at me and asked. How do you find midpoint? and I immediately fired him and suggested a remedial math class at ACC. So We do most of the work ourselves. I looked at your stripped down structure and I see a Louis Barragan structure if you do an accent of colored stucco. This is not “HIPPY” but mexican modern, very sophisticated. Google him. He has the most amazing horse stables all stuccoed in warm pinks and oranges. And a water troth set in Ironwood trees against a blue slab. He connects to our emotions through color and space in away, I adore.

  15. From Patsybell:

    I think when you have time and perspective, you can make this better than you can imagine right now.
    It is very dissapointing, but I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with this later.
    Sorry this happened.